Below are my top 9 hints and tips to grow your audience using Instagram.
1 – Give people a sneak peak of your works-in-progress (WIP).
It’s easy to be able to give your Instagram followers a taster of what’s on the way. I find it helps particularly if you haven’t completed a work for a while and you start feeling the pressure to provide something new to your audience. Don’t rush to finish that piece, give them with a WIP shot, I like to do a WIP shot of just a section of the painting, that way you aren’t giving away your full picture.
Similar to a book launch, you can use this to start telling fans and potential buyers about your latest artwork and get them interested before you’ve even finished it!
2 – Share candid shots
As well as the WIP shot, share other insights into your life as an artist – let people think they are getting a backstage pass or behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of you. Make yourself human and accessible.
Build a link to your local community by showing off where you live or work. It will help people to start connecting and relating to you, particularly if they recognise the photo as where they live or work as well.
3 – Be consistent with your post themes
This might sound like I’m going against the idea of being unusual or putting something quirky up to get people’s attention, but really I’m saying – if your Instagram is about something, make sure the majority of your images follow that theme.
People will follow you because they resonate with what you do and love. Don’t start posting lots of things that are completely unrelated, you will confuse and lose your followers.
You profile description can be a useful tool to set the scene. Keep it really short and to the point.
My art is about celebrating life in the UK, I mainly paint and take photos of the UK – therefore I wanted my Instagram to be about all things British.
4 – Use it as a digital sketchbook.
You could consider Instagram as a digital sketchbook, where your daily inspiration has been collected and logged through out your life. You can easily go back and review what inspired you then and see if it inspires you now. It’s a great way to search your own visual library for your images in a chronological order. It might give you a different view of things when you look back.
By using Instagram it also provides fans and potential customers with your visual process – what have you done, what happened you to along the way, what inspires you? It’s all there on Instagram – don’t be afraid to capture it.
If something from your Instagram history does inspire a painting, when you come to write about the painting – refer to Instagram; the inspiration for the original images, when they were taken and the process of reviewing your feed and getting inspiration for the present work.
5 – Try to be consistent with your post timings.
This isn’t an easy one, during the week I’m working, so it’s usually at the weekend where I get a flood of inspiration and want to post lots of photos! It’s also usually the weekend when I do things that I want to share. However, plan ahead if you need, try to at least post one or two things during the week.
Don’t over post though. If someone doesn’t like one of your photos, that’s fine, they will still follow you, but if they don’t like a few of your photos – the chances are they will stop following you. Quality beats Quantity!
To add onto this point, consider when people will most likely be checking their Instagram feed. Rush hour when they are stuck on a train, lunchtime or in the evening perhaps? You could try to time some of your postings at these times in order to try to get more views. People who follow a lot of people will have a lot of new images on their screen, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t necessarily scroll down them all, so you want to be among those first few – you can only do that with your post timings.
I think I read somewhere that an Instagram photo has a life of around 4 hours before it gets buried in followers’ feeds. However it depends on how many people your followers’ follow.
6 – Try to provide meaning behind the image
A picture can tell a thousand words…let it.
If you’ve had a great experience, upload a picture which shows this – help people to understand what you enjoy and why you enjoy it. Help them to get to know you. Many articles will tell you that if you really want to build a loyal customer base then help them to get to know you as much as your art.
Instagram helps you to build a bridge between you and them; if you can hook them in, you may have a sale, if not, you still may have a fan, which may convert into a sale at some point. Make them want to find out more about you by providing meaningful images.
Don’t just post it, consider why you are posting it. Is it because you’ve had a great experience? Is it something you’re questioning about life? Are you making a social comment? Are you recommending something? Is it linked to a tip about something? You want a beautiful image, but make it pop by giving it meaning. If you have enough followers – ask a question, that should drive likes and comments.
You want some stunning images, but you also want some different ones – consider different angles, unusual subjects, interesting reflections – something that people will do a double-take at.
7 – The popular factor
It’s unfortunate but it’s true, some photos do better than others on Instagram. Beach photos do well – people like to imagine themselves at the beach. Also reflections, silhouettes and sunsets. In order to build a following you also have to post the kind of photos that your followers want to see.
I wouldn’t recommend posting images of what you’re about to eat or your latest bake-off. It’s great for your friends on Facebook perhaps, but you aren’t going to attract people who don’t know you with images of food (unless that’s what you paint)!
I would also say that those images of quotes or jokes don’t work as well on Instagram.
You want to build visuals that pop out at people – when someone views your profile you want a mosaic of colour and inspiration to surround them.
8 – #Hashtags and Comments
We all know what hashtags are by now, we use them to reach people who are interested in certain things – they are keywords for social media. I wouldn’t create one for a single painting, but if you’re working on a project – or better still a community project, make sure you have a hashtag so you can build momentum.
Don’t be afraid to use popular #hashtags, they will help to get you more visibility. A couple of popular ones I’ve see are #instadaily and #photooftheday, but also using sensible ones like #landscapephotography or #sunset are simple and will get noticed by people doing basic searches for these images.
However do be smart with them – they are keywords, so ensure they are relevant and don’t overload your post with them.
It’s also time to start interacting with other Instagram followers! There is no way to avoid it. You’ll often get better results if you comment on images, people know that you’re a real person with similar opinions/likes and will be more likely to take an interest in you. Following a lot of people can be difficult – you have to stroll down a long way to see the images that you really wanted to get to. Ensure you are sensible with who you follow – otherwise Instagram will start feeling like a chore.
You don’t have to follow someone to comment on their image, leave a thoughtful and positive comment and see what happens.If you start building a relationship – you might start following each other.
9 – Edit outside Instagram.
Instagram has some fun filters and I do use them, but some can be a bit over the top. I tend to use filters if it’s something I’ve taken with my phone if I need to jazz it up. Otherwise – when I’m including final images; I use Photoshop to tweak them and get them as I want the world to see them. I put them in Dropbox and access them on my photo via Dropbox to put them on Instagram. Because they’ve been prepped – I don’t use filters at this point. Things like my WIP pictures, final paintings and photos for sale go on prepared and with no filters.
So what’s my Instagram – well as I mentioned I’m a newbie – but I’m going to enjoy creating my online sketchbook! If you want to check out what I’ve got so far go to @dianeonart